Ole: We're determined to put things right
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says his team is eager to put things right against Tottenham Hotspur in today's Premier League meeting.
In an exclusive interview for club media, the boss shared his thoughts ahead of the trip to North London, praising his squad's mentality and efforts in training during the week leading up to the game.
He also provided a team news update, analysed the threat of Nuno Espirito Santo's team and paid a personal tribute to Walter Smith, who sadly passed away this week, aged 73. The Scot helped United win the 2004 FA Cup final against Millwall during a brief period as Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant, a triumph in which Solskjaer featured as a player.
Here's every word from our conversation with Ole...
How has the week been for you, the staff and the players?
"Difficult, as you’d expect. But also, a week with lots of focused minds and determined players. It’s been very good on the training ground, I have to say. The boys deserve all the credit for what they’ve done this week, how focused they’ve been. There’s been no blaming others or pointing fingers, because they are a great group of players, good professionals, and the culture we’ve built is good. We’re disappointed, of course, we’re not happy and jovial, we’re determined to put things right."
Many of the players have spoken about the honest conversations they’ve had with each other. How important is that?
"Very. We’ve got to be, how do you say, in Norway we have an expression: ‘the distance to the ceiling has to be high’. It has to be a room where we can say things openly without it coming back or coming out. We need to sort things out on the pitch, that’s what it’s about. Nothing is personal, because they all want to do their best and they back each other. They know they need each other, the players."
We know the fans are still hurting after Sunday but the way the fans kept singing at the end and after the game, how did that make you feel?
"It makes me feel proud that I’m a Manc. It just what they do and what they’ve always done. I’ve been here for 18 years now at the club, working in some capacity. I’ve been away for a few years and been a fan from afar and they always do it, they always back the team. When you walk outside, you just come to expect they support the team all the time, they’re brilliant."
Last year, we won a quite feisty game against Spurs…
"We did well. We came back after what we felt was unjust when we had a goal disallowed. It wouldn’t be disallowed this season, that’s for sure, which is a good thing. I think football is going in the right direction in that respect. It’s not basketball anymore. We’re looking forward to the game. We hold our hands up, we have to be better and it’s a good chance against a very good team in a magnificent stadium."
Do you have any team news before you head down to London?
"Everyone’s fit. Paul [Pogba]’s suspended but to have everyone else available to choose from is unprecedented really in the middle of the season and when we’re having tough times but we’re ready. They all want to participate and they all want to help the team and the club."
So Varane, who has recovered quicker than normal, and Martial, who’s also been out, are definitely available?
"They’ve been training this week, yeah."
On Spurs, they’ve had some inconsistency themselves. How much of a threat can they be?
"You know Tottenham with the quality they’ve got and the manager they’ve got, they’re always going to give you a challenge. You don’t expect anything but that going into a game in the Premier League. We have to be ready, go out there, perform, work for each other and do what we’ve agreed before the game."
We sadly lost a football legend this week, Walter Smith. What are your thoughts?
"It was a very sad message to get. The last time I sat down with him was at the LMA [League Managers Association] dinner, at Sir Alex’s table. Me and Walter sat next to each other. We’ve been texting since. He was such a fantastic man, clever and a very good coach. I remember when he was here as an assistant manager to the gaffer. I remember, because I used to write down his sessions. I remember him fondly, what a gentleman and a top, top football man."